Genealogy goes beyond all those 'begats'
A wave of genealogical interest sees novice historians digging for their roots - and publishing the results
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"We are battered by a barrage of Palm Pilots and e-mail and digital cameras - the whole world seems to be going electronic," she says. "So when people want to preserve something about their family, they want something solid and substantial: that you can hold in your hand, that you can give to your children and grandchildren."Skip to next paragraph
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The cost of publishing a family history varies enormously, depending on everything from the magnitude of the research and editing it requires, to the number of photographs and the type of binding the writer chooses, to the number of copies wanted. Hardbound scholarly volumes like those published by NEHGS can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars just to begin, while paperback illustrated books of the sort Ms. Hales publishes cost several thousand dollars for a standard run of 250.
But for those genealogists who don't have the time or the budget for professional-quality publishing, there remain plenty of options for compiling family history in a lasting and readable way. Many people self-publish family genealogical material by simply photocopying and binding it at a nearby copy center. Others use book publishers that offer printing services online, such as iUniverse (www.iuniverse.com), which charges $99 to bind a single bare-bones copy of an already-edited manuscript.
Still others use a variety of genealogy software packages that allow users to plug in names and anecdotal notes and emerge with a several-hundred-page volume of charts and records. Doug Campbell is one of those. His interest in genealogy began 50 years ago, but only now, in his retirement, has he launched full tilt into researching and publishing. A former engineer, he says he likes genealogy primarily because "it's like a jigsaw puzzle to me - or a crossword puzzle, where you're trying to fill in the blanks. I don't really care whose I do. It's the trying to hook people together that I enjoy."
Using the computer program Family Tree Maker, Mr. Campbell has, in the past 10 years, traced and published the histories of five family members and friends. The volumes he has produced aren't fancy - they include a single photo, and give only short anecdotes about particular characters - but they will allow coming generations easy access to the material he's uncovered. "Maybe it is somewhat sterile," he says, but at least the stuff isn't sitting in a shoebox in somebody's attic.
That's the most important thing, according to Gabrielle Stone of NEHGS. She says a family history "doesn't have to be sold in Barnes and Noble to have an impact on future generations." Whether a person publishes a beautifully told story or photocopies straight research, the crucial point is "that the information you gathered isn't lost when you're gone."
How to Publish and Market Your Family History, by Carl Boyer III
Black Roots: A Beginner's Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree, by Tony Burroughs
Shaking Your Family Tree, by Ralph Crandall
Guidelines for Authors of Compiled Genealogies, by Thomas Kozachek
Cite Your Sources: A Manual for Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records, by Richard S. Lackey
Producing a Quality Family History, by Patricia Hatcher
Source: Christopher Hartman, New England Historic Genealogical Society